Eddie Murphy, A Thousand Words
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, which received about as many bad reviews as the Andrew Stanton / Taylor Kitsch sci-fier John Carter, easily maintained its position at the top of the North American box office this weekend, March 9-11. The Lorax took in $39.1 million (-44 percent from last weekend), according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Domestic total: $121.95m. Budget: $70m.
As mentioned in my previous article (see link above), John Carter was no. 2 with $30.4m. At no. 3, the widely panned low-budget flick Project X added $11.55 million (-45 percent). Domestic total: $40.12m. Budget: $12m.
Starring Martha Marcy May Marlene’s Elizabeth Olsen, Silent House opened with $7.01 million at 2,124 locations, for a mediocre $3,300 per-theater average. It gets worse: the Laura Lau / Chris Kentis-directed horror flick received an F rating from movie audiences. The silver lining: It reportedly cost less than $1 million, though it’s unclear how much distributor Open Road Films spent on marketing.
At no. 5, the flag-waving Act of Valor drew $7 million, for a cume of $56.1 million after three weekends. According to Deadline.com, the film was acquired for $13 million by Relativity Media, which committed to spend another $30m marketing/distributing it.
The no. 6 movie was the latest Eddie Murphy box office disaster, A Thousand Words. Murphy was to have hosted the 2012 Oscar ceremony, but dropped out show producer Brett Ratner was fired/resigned following his use of an anti-gay slur and comments about sex with Lindsay Lohan.
As mentioned in my previous article on A Thousand Words, no one can know for sure if the box office take of the $40m-budgeted ($70m according to some sources) DreamWorks / Paramount release would have been higher had Murphy kept his Oscar gig. But one thing is certain: it wouldn’t have been much lower than its $6.35 million at 1,890 locations. As for its approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, it couldn’t be any lower, period: 0 percent. Directed by Brian Robbins, the comedy (actually shot in 2008) co-stars Kerry Washington.
And don’t expect the international market to rescue A Thousand Words, as Murphy’s movies almost invariably perform much better in the United States than elsewhere.
"Performing better," however, doesn’t mean "performing well." No less than two Eddie Murphy movies are among the five worst super-saturated releases (3,000+ theaters) ever in North America: Brian Robbins’ Meet Dave, co-starring Elizabeth Banks, and Karey Kirkpatrick’s Imagine That. Meet Dave earned $5.25 million in July 2008; Imagine That grossed $5.5 million in June 2009. Both movies ended their run way below $20m. A Thousand Words will undoubtedly follow that same path.
Apart from the Shrek movies, Murphy’s last major domestic hit ($100m+ in 2012 dollars) was another Brian Robbins-directed comedy, Norbit, which earned $95.67 million in 2007, or about $110m today. Murphy’s last domestic blockbuster ($200m+ in 2012 dollars) was Doctor Dolittle, which grossed $144.15 million in 1998, or about $245 million today.
Curiously, Murphy could do no wrong in the ’80s and early ’90s: his string of hits, all of them for Paramount, included his biggest box office success, Beverly Hills Cop (1984), in addition to 48 Hrs., Coming to America, Trading Places, The Golden Child, and Boomerang. Poor reviews for some of those movies didn’t matter; audiences flocked to watch his antics — no matter how unfunny.
But from the mid-’90s on, Murphy’s box office record became wildly erratic. He has had a handful of major hits (Doctor Dolittle, The Nutty Professor) and several solid performers (Dreamgirls, Norbit), but also numerous disappointments (Showtime, I Spy, Bowfinger, Life, Tower Heist) and more than a few downright bombs (Holy Man, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Imagine That, Meet Dave, A Thousand Words).
The aforementioned Tower Heist, directed by Brett Ratner and co-starring Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Gabourey Sidibe, and others, underperformed last year, grossing $78 million in North America and $74.8 million abroad.
Rounding out the top twelve movies in North America this weekend were:
- Ryan Reynolds / Denzel Washington’s Safe House with $5 million (-32 percent);
- Rachel McAdams / Channing Tatum’s The Vow with $4 million (-34 percent);
- Reese Witherspoon / Chris Pine / Tom Hardy’s This Means War with $3.75 million (-33 percent);
- Josh Hutcherson / Dwayne Johnson / Vanessa Hudgens’ Journey 2: The Mysterious Island with $3.68 million (-44 percent);
- Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds’ $3 million (-57 percent);
- Best Picture Oscar winner The Artist, starring Best Actor Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, with $2.3 million (-37 percent).
A Thousand Words photo: Bruce McBroom / DW Studios.